Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City High School in west-central Minnesota is mourning the loss of 18-year-old Zach Joseph Junkermeier, who was killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling in Montana on Tuesday.
The senior student from Lake Lillian, Minnesota, will be honored today when the school's boy's basketball team takes the court against Rushford-Peterson in the quarterfinal round of the Class 1A State Boys' Basketball Tournament at Williams Arena.
Terry Miller is the head coach of the Falcons, and in an interview with BringMeTheNews, Miller said his players will salute their fallen classmate by wearing black ribbons on their jerseys.
ACGC, a school better known for its dominant wrestling program – which finished second in the Class 1A state tournament – is making its first trip to state in boys' basketball. Overcoming the emotion that accompanies the loss of a fellow student isn't easy, but Miller has told his team that it's okay to focus on the task at hand, if only for a day.
"It's okay to feel good about where we're at and what we've accomplished," Miller said. "We wanted to recognize him, but we still wanted to have the focus be on us today."
ACGC students will arrive at the game in busloads, and many of them will be wearing green bandanas – the same way Junkermeier was known for wearing one, according to Miller.
"I would say half the student body at school was wearing the green bandanas at our sendoff today. ... So pretty cool, pretty moving," he said.
Junkermeier wasn't on the basketball team, but he was a talented track athlete.
"He was a big time trackster. He was a stud track athlete," said Miller, who also coaches the track team. He pole vaulted and was obviously a very gifted jumper. He long-jumped, he triple-jumped, he high-jumped, he pole-vaulted and he ran just about every race whenever we needed him."
The game between ACGC and Rushford-Peterson tips off at 5 p.m. For all of the state tournament brackets, click here.